NOTE: I was supposed to post this for Kate last night, so pretend you’re reading it in the wee hours.
All right, I’m truly exhausted now, and writing up some odds and ends a couple hours after beer-thirty is not so much “liveblogging,” but here are a few final notes on the Causes in Common Meeting.
Regarding Assisted Reproductive Genetic Technologies, Miriam Yeung says at this point, we’re still figuring out the questions more than the answers. Three key ones for both LGBT and reproductive freedom activists are:
1) Just because we can, should we?
2) Is it fair?
3) Who makes the decisions?
The crucial thing right now, she suggested, is for “smart people to get thinking about it.” Aaand…. go!
The later afternoon panel on Coalition Building was moderated by Alisa Wellek of the LGBT Community Center and featured Marlene Pray of Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County and The Rainbow Room (a community center for LGBT youth, partnered with PPABC), Patrick Flaherty of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, Moof Mayeda of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Aimee Thorne-Thomsen of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project. I’m too tired to do any of the speakers justice, but here’s a taste:
Aimee talked about PEP’s struggles to be allies to the gay community, when their staff is predominantly straight. Instead of framing coalition building in sentimental terms, she cut right to the chase: it is sometimes simply a matter of “how to move forward without harming each other, without selling each other out.” She also stressed the need for both parties to set their terms at the outset of any effort to create a coalition. She suggested asking questions up front like, What exactly do you want from us? What do you expect us to deliver? Do you understand our limitations? What happens when we disagree? If everyone’s on the same page from the get-go, it’s a lot easier to build a successful coalition.
Moof discussed “building relationships through action” — pointing out that we often assume the relationship between two groups should be established before they begin working together, but just digging into a project together can actually create the foundation for a solid alliance.
Patrick said that when his organization shared information with a local Planned Parenthood in an effort to identify overlap among pro-choice and queer-friendly voters, they discovered that the voters they contacted “had no trouble moving back and forth between the two issues.” There seems to be a lot of fear among single-issue activists that voters will support one issue and reject the other, but we heard time and again today that that’s not necessarily the case.
Marlene, representing an LGBTQA organization that operates under the aegis of Planned Parenthood, had lots to say about the intersection of the two causes — and I encourage you to check out The Rainbow Room/PPABC’s website — but I want to zero in on a tangential issue she brought up: “the crumbling of sex ed as part of the social justice movement.” Jackie Payne also discussed how the majority of voters see sex ed as a “common sense solution” — i.e., it’s a no-brainer in terms of garnering support, as it damn well ought to be. And yet, there are still tons of kids getting no sex ed, or abstinence-only sex ed. And although the House recently voted to cut $50 million in abstinence-only funding, that doesn’t appear to have the same support in the Senate. Why isn’t this issue getting more play? (I mean, other than places like this.)
Finally, I want to note one other point I heard from several different people at the meeting: sometimes, it’s necessary to sacrifice a few of your supporters (e.g., homophobic pro-choice people or anti-choice queer people/allies) on principle. In every case, those who brought this up told stories of losing a handful of donors or friends when they branched out to address issues beyond the scope of their immediate missions — and then gaining many, many more. Greater inclusivity may involve short-term losses, but all agreed that the long-term gains — significant expansion of their bases — were well worth it.
Thanks so much to everyone involved in making the meeting happen. It was a terrific day. I can’t wait to see what the SisterSong folks have to say tomorrow.
Kate Harding is a Chicago-based writer who blogs about feminism and fat acceptance at Shapely Prose and about books at The Bibliophilistines.